Windfall-Tree With Chilli Dressing

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There’s not much leeway for Christmas trees in our cottage. This is mostly because the two main living rooms have multiple doorways. We ummed and ah-ed about getting a small one, and then one morning as we were walking home from a spot of shopping, there beside the old railway line at the junction with Sheinton Street was a crashed Wellingtonia branch, the result of high wind events in early December. So that solved the problem. For one thing it was flat. Two dimensional dressing only, which meant it would fit in the corner of the kitchen.

The branch was hauled home, trimmed and propped with rocks inside a coconut sellers’ basket that had come back with us from Kenya twenty odd years ago. It  was then sited in the chosen position where it did indeed fit. Just. Lights and decorations were unearthed, and it was then that certain limitations were encountered. When it came to suspending decorations, the individual small stems along the branch were neither robust nor numerous. They were also more vertical than horizontal. What to do? The in-house stock of lightweight knick-knackery was soon exhausted, leaving us, I felt, with a rather sparse effort, festively speaking. More red was needed, and that’s how a trip to the allotment polytunnel resolved matters. Chillis, large and small, were duly harvested. And the whole effort topped with a red ribbon. So there we have it; our make-do ‘tree’.

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Wishing Everyone A Happy Problem-Solving New Year

Of Long Past Posts ~ Wolf Farts Revisited

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Sunshine yesterday after days of rain and general dankness, so we took ourselves off for a short walk up Windmill Hill. It was ages since we were last there – probably July when the pyramidal orchids were still in full bloom and there were drifts of yellow ladies bedstraw amongst the meadow grasses. Now the hill’s plateau top where the Windmill stands has been mown. It is practically a grassy sward up there.

And the reason for the mowing is that the kind Windmill Trust people, who are caring for the place, are trying to ensure the wellbeing of the old limestone meadow. In the recent past it was grazed over the autumn and winter months by ponies, but having field stock is anyway problematical when it’s such a popular spot for local dog walkers. So mowing it was, and I gather they managed to sell the grass for cattle feed, which all helps to support the Trust’s work.

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Anyway, it was as I wandering around on the grassy top that I remembered the wolf farts. They featured in one of my early posts on matters Wenlockian and I hadn’t bothered to look for them since. And the reason I’d looked for them back then was because they cropped up in Guardian newspaper piece by journalist and nature writer of repute, Paul Evans, who happened to live in Much Wenlock.

So: what are wolf farts but the common puffball, Lycoperdon (from the Greek lycos wolf and perdomai to break wind) perlatum  (gem-studded). Another name is devil’s snuffbox. My first introduction to them was in winter when they had dried to empty husks, their spores dispersed. The ones in the photos are at most 2.5 cm (a good inch) across.

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I later read that squeezing them at the ripe stage was to be avoided. The spores are fine as dust and breathing them in can lead to lycoperdonosis, a life-threatening respiratory condition caused when the spores lodge in the lungs. A very nasty prospect.

But there were no such dangers of evil inhalants from the ones I spotted yesterday (header photo). They were freshly formed. And this reminded me of the recent  marvellous foraging essay from Margaret at From Pyrenees to Pennines in which she describes finding “a magnificent puffball weighing in at more than a kilo, which – thickly sliced and dredged first in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and fried in butter – made splendidly tasty steaks.” As a fellow forager I was mightily excited by this piece of deliciousness. Somehow, though, I don’t think our tiny Windmill Hill wolf farts will quite come up to snuff on the tasty steak front.

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More about the common puffball HERE

Of Wolf Farts, Windmills and the Wenlock Olympics  original post

 Past Squares #7

This Must Be The Stuff Rumpelstiltskin Used

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Well here it is – all set to spin into gold. So now you know. Rumpelstiltskin surely had barley straw.

But before the spinning – this was the barley crop three mornings ago:

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Then in the afternoon, in the baking heat, this happened:

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And the dust flew:

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And now we have this:

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And I can hurdle across the field to the allotment, leaping limping over the straw furrows which are half a metre tall, grabbing a few handfuls as I go – not for gold production unfortunately, but to add to the compost bins. There’s another bonus too. This early harvesting may mean we have the freedom of the field for much longer than we usually do – i.e. before it is ploughed for the next crop. I’m also looking forward to baling, if that’s what happens with barley straw. Lots more photo opportunities if the bales are left in the field long enough to take the camera out.

Grimms’ Fairy Tales: Rumpelstiltskin

Clouds With Silver Linings?

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I have to say that on the presentation front the cloud gods have truly upped their game this year. Even in the stormy wet and frigid months that were supposed to be spring, but weren’t, we were treated to some magnificent cloudscapes. And lately too, during our present hot spell, we’ve had some stunningly captivating creations. There’s much to be said for cloud watching. In fact I think this huge job spotted over the barley field the other afternoon could well be the Starship Enterprise in disguise.

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Life in Colour: White/Silver

Alien Life Forms At The Allotment?

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Well this does look pretty weird, doesn’t it. On the other hand it’s the only evidence of major growth  on my allotment plots just now. And the only photo-worthy sign that I’ve actually been toiling away up there.

Naturally, seasoned gardeners will immediately recognise what’s going on here, though my method was a bit unorthodox. Forced rhubarb. Back in the winter when the shoots were first sprouting, this despite many rounds of frost, I had the notion of putting a spare compost bin over the clump. It has worked very well, producing very long pink juicy stems that cook in an eye’s blink. Delicious simmered in fresh-squeezed orange juice, sweetened with runny honey and some star anise. Then served with Greek yogurt. Just the thing for a bright breakfast start to the day.

Bright Square #29

Uppity Little Birds, Robins

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But it’s always cheering to spot one. Even more so if they burst into song and brighten up a wintery twilight. But they can be fractious, being fiercely territorial when it comes to seeing off competitors. They are also very demanding. For much of last year I had one appear as soon as I started work on my allotment plot. If I went near any of my compost heaps, it was there at my feet, demanding that I instantly turn over the heap so it could stuff itself with worms. Obviously I had been labouring under a misapprehension thinking I was the allotment holder. Silly me. As I said: robins rule. I was just there as the field hand.

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Square Up #28

Bird Weekly: Lisa calls for brown feathered varieties

Whatever’s Going On Up There?

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Looks like Owl has been on a festive-season bender and is yet to recover his wits (as in wits-de-woo?). He’s supposed to be on duty seeing off pigeons, and every now and then a human climbs the church tower to put him in a fresh, deemed intimidating pose. Clearly he’s not seeing much from under his Santa hat. Even Weather Cock is giving him the cold shoulder. Even the local doves are having a good laugh – hoo-hoo-hoo, they chortle. I caught them at it just a few minutes ago as I walked back from a trip to the shop.

Well! The things that go on in Much Wenlock. One could faint with the excitement of it all.

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Square Up #12